Helping a Family Member with Problem Gambling

Helping a Family Member with Problem Gambling

Gambling can be a fun hobby for some people. Yet others struggling with addiction to gambling which can take its toll on family, friends, work, finances and even a person’s health. Compulsive gambling is a progressive illness. Cravings to gamble are likened to those of an addict searching for a fix that leads a person to lie, steal, spend savings, ask for money from loved ones only to spend it gambling and lead to dangerous consequences. Learn more about compulsive gambling, how to spot the signs and how to help a loved one with a gambling problem.


Understanding Addiction

A person can develop a compulsive gambling habit the first time a bet is placed, an arm pulled on a machine or the first card turned over on a blackjack table. The length of time it takes a person to develop a gambling habit depends on the form of gambling (online betting, slot machines, etc). Some gamblers find symptoms of compulsion begin within a year of gambling, yet others may take longer.



It is not known what leads to compulsive gambling but many factors contribute. Hereditary and environmental factors can both play a part in development of a gambling problem. Some signs a gambling problem is out of control include:

  • Spending more money on gambling than a person can afford
  • Difficulty in relationships caused by gambling
  • Gambling getting in the way of work
  • Inability to cut back or stop
  • Spending more time on gambling than before
  • Attempting to hide gambling from friends or loved ones
  • Stealing or committing fraud to support gambling habit
  • Seeking loans to cover debt


Helpful Steps

If a loved one may have a gambling problem, the most important thing to do is encourage the person to seek professional help. Confronting a person with a gambling problem is also a good starting point by asking the person about the problem. A straight answer may not be forthcoming but if done in a non-confrontational manner, the person may open up about the issue.


Adolescents and Teens

Young people are at risk of developing a gambling problem. Compulsive gambling generally starts when a person is in the late teens. What may start in the teen years as something fun to do can turn into a stressful, life altering addiction years later.


Treatment Options

Compulsive gambling can be treated using one of three means: psychotherapy, medication and support groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior therapy may help a person identify thought patterns which led to a gambling problem. By doing so, the person can replace negative thoughts with healthier, positive beliefs. Some gamblers respond well to medication such as antidepressants, narcotic antagonists and mood stabilizer medications. Often a person with gambling addiction also suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder so medication or therapy for treatment can alleviate addiction to gambling. Gamblers Anonymous and other self-help groups help people as well and provide support for recovery.


Compulsive Gambling can have serious consequences. There is treatment available to help quit and get your life back on track. Call us to find out how we can help you stop gambling and start living a healthy lifestyle in recovery.